By Scott Johnston (2019)

When a company loses a management resource from its IT/IS organization the best solution may be to fill the role temporarily with an experienced consultant rather than rush the process.

When a key leader in a C, VP or Management role decides to leave, the organization must quickly recruit, or promote the right replacement. If succession plans are in place for key positions then immediate promotion into that role may be the best solution. The difficulty arises when there is no pre-groomed replacement. The recruiting and selection process can take a long time, even with internal candidates where a transition plan should be established. In times of immediate need some companies might be tempted to rush the process, however this can result in hiring the next person, not necessarily the right person for the job.

So the organization must decide what course to take and ensure business functions and current projects are not impacted during a proper selection and transition process. Usually this takes one of two forms of action.

One option is to appoint an internal candidate as ‘Acting’ in the position. Management selects one of their rising stars to fill-in during the selection process. These battlefield promotions may seem like an immediate solution, however they often result in unintended consequences. The ‘Acting’ person immediately assumes responsibility and jumps a level in the hierarchy without sufficient transition into the new role. Their existing responsibilities must be reallocated and the new ones absorbed. This can overload the selected individual, who has to prove themselves, and can also lead to resistance from the rest of the members of the team. Further consequences can also result if the ‘Acting’ individual is eventually not selected for the role. You may end up losing that rising star altogether.

The second option is to temporarily split the responsibilities among other leadership during the selection process. Again this action, while seemingly a better interim solution, can have unintended consequences. The first is immediately overloading your other key IT/IS management resources. In these times of lean and closely aligned business/IT structures there is little excess capacity. So now instead of impacting only the business units and projects supported by the departing role, management has unintentionally spread the gap to impact other business units and projects. Likewise the direct reports under that role now are  broken up under different ‘temporary’ reporting structures. This adds to the stress of the transition, and can lead to a drop in productivity.

While both of the mentioned options are subject to unintended consequences there is another approach to be considered. This approach supports the main concerns to:

  • Ensure core business support and current projects are minimally impacted
  • Provide sufficient time to recruit and/or select the right replacement
  • Allow sufficient transition time for your best potential internal candidate
  • Show the direct reports under the departing role that they are important to the organization

The third option is to fill the position temporarily with an experienced outside consultant. This allows time for the initial transition planning period without the previously mentioned unintended consequences. The outside consultant should be well versed in a variety of technologies, rapidly adaptable to new business environments, and be comfortable ‘plugging-in’ to leadership roles and interfacing between IT/IS and senior business leadership. Taking this approach can be less disruptive while reassuring the company’s business users that their needs will be met and that management is prepared to take the right steps during the transition.

Utilizing an experienced consultant can also help identify opportunities for improvement, all without being threatening to existing staff as it has been clearly stated the consultant is strictly in a  short-term temporary role.

When replacing a key IT/IS management resource; it is worth considering the many benefits of using an outside consultant to plug-in to the role temporarily while the right candidate is identified.